At least 23 people died while working or in connection with their jobs in 2023, the Maine Department of Labor announced on Sunday, Workers’ Memorial Day.

While the number of work-related deaths in Maine has been gradually increasing over the past decade, 2023 matched 2022 as the deadliest year for workers since 2011.

At least three of the workers who died last year were killed when Robert Card fatally shot 18 people and wounded 13 others in the mass shooting at Schemengees Bar & Grille and Just-in-Time Recreation in Lewiston.

The news adds to labor advocates’ mounting call to strengthen workplace safety resources, practices, legislation and enforcement in Maine.

“It’s a deeply sad thing to hear that it’s still such a high number,” said Kilton Webb, vice president of the Western Maine Labor Council.

Advocates, unions and workers from Maine’s different industries gathered in Rumford on Sunday to observe Workers’ Memorial Day and honor the 23 lives.


The national AFL-CIO first declared April 28 Workers’ Memorial Day in 1989. Its message, and observance, quickly spread across the world. The Western Maine Labor Council began commemorating the Mainers who have died, been injured or become ill while working 18 years ago at the first annual Workers’ Memorial Day/May Day Dinner.

It’s especially important, Webb said, as Maine continues topping the list for workplace injury and illness rates in the nation. In 2022, Maine had a workplace injury rate of 5 for every 100 full-time employees – the highest in the country. And it sits well above the national average of 3 in 100.

“That’s not something we want to be a leader in,” Webb said. “These aren’t problems that are solved overnight, but these are things where we need to start looking and figuring out what the root causes were.”

The Lewiston mass shooting adds another layer to the issue, Kilton said. Thomas Conrad, 34, was a manager at Just-In-Time Recreation, working during the mass shooting. Joe Walker, 57, was the manager of Schemengees Bar & Grille and died trying to take Card down with a butcher’s knife. It’s not clear who the third person is that the Maine Department of Labor is including in the count of fatalities. Tricia Asselin, 53, was a part-time worker at Just-in-Time Recreation who was at the bowling alley for fun the night of the shooting. Bob Violette, 76, was a volunteer coach for a youth league there.

The uncertainty also highlights an ambiguity in the counts, which are estimates that could very well miss people who slip through the cracks.

And, the shooting may expand the definition of what workplace safety, protections and enforcement entails in Maine.

“That topic (of workplace safety) has been broadened in a certain way, but it definitely now is workplace safety,” Webb said. “This is something that you hope exists more on the fringes of society, but it is now part of our culture here.”

The Maine Department of Labor was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday.

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